Iraq Death Toll from Attacks rises to 119, Biggest since Start of Year

AP is reporting that the wave of bombings and attacks throughout Iraq on Monday is now estimated to have killed 119 persons. Although some analysts are attempting to tie the attacks to the failure of Iraq’s political class to form a government, thus creating a vacuum, I do not see it that way. The attacks do not speak to the weakness of the Iraqi government, but to a) the continued strength of the guerrillas and b) to poor security procedures at the local level. The al-Hayat article cited below quotes an official saying that the security men at the Hilla factory should not have allowed unidentified trucks to park outside it. One take-away is that the US military concentration on killing guerrilla leaders or ‘high value targets’ is not entirely effective. To the extent that the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement is a movement and not just a small organization, it is very difficult to stop it with mere assassinations of individuals.

The biggest casualty tolls came from bombings near a Shiite mosque and in a market in the southern port city of Basra, and at a state-owned textile factory in Shiite-majority Hilla, south of Baghdad. The massive death toll is reminiscent of Iraq’s worst days, in 2006-2007, and proof that the guerrilla cells among dissident Sunni Arabs, whether fundamentalists or secular Arab nationalists, are still highly organized and motivated to undermine the new, Shiite-dominated political order in Iraq.

The bombings had a symbolic side to them. A state-owned textile factory in Hilla generates employment and income for Shiites and ensures their loyalty to the Baghad government. Many of the state-owned economic enterprises in the Sunni Arab areas of Iraq were allowed to collapse by the American government of Iraq, then headed by viceroy Paul Bremer. Sunni Arabs were thrown into unemployment in the tens of thousands, both by American neoliberalism and by the ‘debaathification’ campaign of Ahmad Chalabi and Nuri al-Maliki (now spearheaded by the ‘Justice and Accountability Committee’). In that light, to have al-Maliki heading up a government that provides work at a textile factory for Shiites in Hilla is galling to Sunni Arab militants. Likewise, the Shiite-majority riverside port city of Basra is Iraq’s window on the world, and its Shiite fundamentalist militias have often targeted Sunni institutions and harmed other minorities. Basra province is a major oil-producing and refining center doing bids with foreign oil corporations. Being deep in the Shiite south, it had been considered a difficult target for the Sunni Arab guerrilla cells of the north.

Likewise, a Husayniya or Shiite religious center was bombed in Suwayra near Baghdad, killing 11, and police and army checkpoints throughout Baghdad were attacked with light arms and bombings.

There was also violence in the Sunni north. In Mosul, bombers killed two Peshmerga, members of the Kurdish paramilitary. Arabs and Kurds are competing for influence in Kirkuk, Mosul and Diyala provinces.

These bombings signal that the Sunni Arab cells, full of men with military, munitions and tactical training, are still determined to resist the new, American-imposed order, which is led by the Shiites and the Kurds..

Al-Hayat [Life] reports in Arabic that the attacks were claimed by the Iraqi Hamas, a Sunni fundamentalist organization founded after the US invasion in 2003, which had earlier been aligned with the ‘1920 Revolution Brigades.’ The latter guerrilla group was close ideologically to the Muslim Scholars Association. Iraqi Hamas is now, however, said to have developed its own paramilitary capability.

Aljazeera English has a video report on the violence during the first half of the day on Monday:


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4 Responses

  1. ref : “Attacks [by Sunni provocateurs] on Shiite mosques [and civilians] are intended to provoke reprisals against Sunni Arabs, sharpening the contradictions and polarization and making [heretofore nonviolent, but now “aroused victims of Shiite reprisals”] Sunnis easier to recruit and mobilize for the [delusional cause of a unified “Grand] Resistance” [to Shiite rule in Iraq — or even evolve into a greater ‘Sunni-Shiite War’ that would engulf the entire region in a sectarian bloodbath, dwarfing the horror we witnessed in the recent ‘Sunni-Shiite Battle for Baghdad’]. Though the ‘logic’ of Sunni militants trying to victimize their own peoples “to provoke a general uprising” is grotesque, professor, it is consistent with the delusional thinking of other militant groups, including the weird manifestos espoused by our own, so-called “domestic” terrorists.

  2. Please please prof. Cole – your commentaries are excellent your knowledge exceptional your acumen unrivalled my esteem sky-high but please in the name of common human decency stop referring to those who random-bomb and massacre ordinary people in markets and mosques due to faith/ideology/ethnicity/whatever as “guerrillas”! I’m writing from Italy, we’ve had our share/bellyful of euromed “fitna” equiv., in our case ideological (essentially fascists vs communists), still weeping for victims 30 years later so I know what I’m talking about: WHOEVER choses to place bombs – with-or-without attached human carriers – in public places to blow up random human beings of rival persuasion in order to influence political processes is a TERRORIST – that’s what we called and call the effin’ CIA-backed fascists responsible for Italy’s strategy-of-tension terrorist massacre-bombings (Piazza Fontana Piazza della Loggia Italicus train Bologna station..) that’s what WHOEVER carries out such filthy deeds deserves to be called. Guerrillas are something else entirely, they fight stronger military/paramilitary and/or foreign occupation forces face to face the way our partisan fighters fought the Nazis our southern “brigand” irregulars fought the invading French, could be dirty could be vicious but DID NOT BLOW UP RANDOM CIVILIANS IN MARKETS OR PLACES OF WORSHIP so please do not soil that term any further. :(

    • hi, Parvati. People fighting an unconventional war over a long time and in a concerted way are guerrillas and have so been called since the early 19th century. I’m not sure why you think guerrillas do not use terrorism as a tactic or kill civilians. But so do states fighting a war. A terrorist group in my view is smaller or more limited than a guerrilla movement.

      • Hi Juan and thanks for replying! :) So here are my best-effort attempts at clarification in reply to your reply:

        “People fighting an unconventional war over a long time and in a concerted way are guerrillas and have so been called since the early 19th century.” “A terrorist group in my view is smaller or more limited than a guerrilla movement.”

        I’d say the terminology-divide is about choice of tactics not size or duration – IMHO spontaneously formed irregular bands that conduct ambushes/sabotage operations against enemy military and police forces including placing IEDs where military/police vehicles pass are guerrillas by definition from day one, regardless of size.

        “I’m not sure why you think guerrillas do not use terrorism as a tactic or kill civilians.”
        Of course civilians get killed in all wars, both by regular and by irregular forces, and take sides. Throughout history, irregulars/guerrillas/partisan bands have tortured and killed collaborators=persons known/suspected to be actively working for the other side, alas often complete with families. Such actions are atrocities/war crimes, but at least as the word is used “over here”, they are NOT acts of “terrorism” because the victims are not wholly random/indiscriminate but are instead specific persons targetted for specific reasons: they are not acts of generic intimidation (or in some cases provocation) aimed at the population as a whole.

        Re acts of terrorism proper – i.e. bombs in marketplaces, places of worship, inside or outside local government offices where citizens as-a-whole congregate for routine purposes : some guerrilla forces have committed such acts, some haven’t. Of the two Italian examples I cited – WW2 anti-Nazi partisan bands and a less-known, quasi “Afghan-wars type” peasant-resistance thingy called the “Bands of the Holy Faith” that fought against the French invasion of Southern Italy at the end of the 18th century. Both these irregular forces (main force plus very loosely linked local cells) committed occasional payback-atrocities especially against captured regular forces and known collaborators-thereof, both had and used explosives against military/military-police targets (against columns, barracks, meetups…) with more than a few occasional unintended civilian victims – but NEITHER committed let alone employed as recurrent tactic-of-choice the kind of massive bombing attacks against random civilians attending to their daily lives that would have got them branded as T-For-Terrorists – unlike the Tamil Tigers, Iran’s MEK-PMOI… and whoever-whatever is targetting marketplaces and mosques in Iraq!

        Another example: Sendero Luminoso is a guerrilla group officially tagged as “terrorist” but which has nonetheless remained essentially a guerrilla force: it has certainly committed numerous atrocities but in terms of MO the terrorism-proper element is minuscule – afaik just 1 (one) dubious-ascription shopping-mall bombing – compared to the heavily predominant paramilitary aspect.

        Perfectly possible that in addition to the Zarqawi-gang by whatsoever subsequent name/names mutations and permutations, certain forces involved in these bombings actually did start out as guerrilla-warfare bands fighting US/UK+Peshmerga+Badr Brigade forces face to face/via ambushes in the immediate wake of the US/UK+SCIRI invasion …but unfortunately for them, “you are what you do”: if-and-insofar as they are responsible for this endless series of totally indiscriminate bombing-massacres, at least IMHO they have degenerated from guerrillas into Terrorists-With-A-Capital-T.

        Minor historical-footnote P.S. just in case you or anyone else is interested – some links on Southern Italy’s/the “West’s” nearest-thing-to-Afghani-mujahideen in recent history: the Sanfedisti – “Bands of the Holy Faith”:
        link to
        local-hero Sanfedisti leader Michele Pezza of Itri: link to
        the Sanfedisti’s anthem – a peasant tammurriata that stirringly/chillingly mocks the French revolutionary army’s “carmagnole” + propaganda-soundbites/slogans :
        link to

        Judgement of History aspect: regardless of right/wrong-side-of-history religion n’ politics kerfuffles, Sanfedisti leaders such as Michele Pezza are still viewed as major local heroes and the Sanfedisti anthem is still extremely popular here from approx. Rome down, tussled-over by rightwing and leftwing forces and just about everything/everyone in between – which would NOT be the case if the Sanfedisti had indulged in Iraqi-style indiscriminate bombing massacres against the general population!

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